Winter Holidays Checklist

Anticipating hours in traffic and getting last-minute gifts in panic? Have no fear – here is the checklist that can help you stay focused during the most wonderful time of the year.

The easiest way to ensure that nothing gets forgotten is to think about it in categories. They are also organized in order of them being addressed (e.g., complete one section before moving to the next will make it easier to plan and prepare).

Overall Research and Planning (Start here!)

  • Before you go to the store or begin thinking about the menu or buying items that you would like to see on your holiday table, it is important to have a sense of your holiday time and what it would look like. This may include but not limited to:
    • Talking to your significant other, family or friends to decide if there is a high-level plan – for example, does your spouse plan on taking the time off in December of just power through all the events and be back to work as soon as it is over? This will give you the information about the time off work you need to take in advance (for example, some offices require you to request winter vacation days in September so they can plan ahead).
    • Are your friends planning on hosting or are they taking a trip to a distant location and you will be left on your own? Once you have a sense of what to expect, you can ensure you book the necessary time off work, figure out how many gifts you need to get and what your overall budget is.


  • So once you have figured out the people you will be seeing during the holiday season, it is time to create a list. For each person, write their name, amount you would like to spend on their gift and examples of things they like. I was really impressed with the Every Girl gift guide this year – this is the longest guide I have ever seen. Even if you do not reside in the USA, it will give you ideas on what to look for in the stores that deliver to your area.
  • It feels really weird to say it in 2021 but try online shopping. I had to learn it because I still have a tendency to find American sites that either do not deliver to Canada or have amounts in American currency. However, now with the Amazon and ‘thanks’ to Covid, most companies can deliver. It is great to start shopping early so you leave some time for them to deliver because this way, even with delays, your plans would not be impacted. I live in the area where I am walking distance away from a shopping mall, and you would not believe the craziness of the traffic here on weekends. Why suffer if most things can be delivered to your home?
  • For those of you that like to add something extra, getting the ‘main’ gifts ordered in advance frees your time, energy and creativity for extra things – whether it is small things for stocking stuffers, personalized details like small key-chain with their initials, seasonal candles or hand-made items including food or drinks.
  • Finally, do not forget gift wrapping paper and supplies. Let me tell you a scary story – my best friend once did not worry about wrapping gifts in advance so when she finally got to it – it was the night of December 24th, she ran out of tape and all stores were closed so she had to use band-aids to secure the wrapping paper in place.

Scheduling and Events

  • Print a free monthly calendar and put key dates in – dates for all events, such as celebrations at work, gatherings with family and friends, special events planned, pay schedule, vacation days…this will give you a glance of what the next month may look like and will help to mentally prepare for the busiest season. It will also show you if you have any ‘gaps’ where nothing is going on so you can plan a movie maraphone, spa day or opportunity to visit a local museum or a gallery.

Stationary/Planning for Long-distance friends and relatives

  • Consider the friends and family that live far away and will appreciate old fashioned paper greeting’s card. You can also sing up for groups that exchange letters or just cards around the world or even in your local community – how exciting it is to receive a holiday card when you least expect it! Just be careful when sharing your address and make sure to check the validity of the group first.

Food and Drinks

  • This is my favourite section. I am a foodie at heart, and I used to be called a ‘food fairy’ at work because I always have snacks. Anyways, once you know how many events to expect and whether or not you are hosting, this can help you plan the festive dishes. I like spending a quiet time browsing various ideas for special holiday dishes – trying dishes from different countries or attempting to make my own desert like a 5 layer cake or taking time to develop my own holiday cocktail. Do the research, save your favourite or interesting recipes and put together a list of ingredients – and as you do weekly shopping start paying attention if some of the ingredients are on sale. This way, by the time you get to the day X you would be more or less prepared. Here are some sites I love with ideas for both Christmas and New Year’s menu and for everything in-between:
    • Christmas meals ideas: 1) What’s Gaby Cooking – Californian food 2) LCBO Food and Drink 3) Allrecipes 4) Food Network 5) DYI Foods
    • New Year’s – I stay true to my roots and celebrate New Years in Russian style, which means sitting down to celebrate around 9-10pm on December 31st, with a must concert/dancing and fireworks to follow well after the midnight. The secret to handle large amounts of alcohol is to eat even more! The beauty of russian cousine is that they use a lot of ingredients that can be found in most grocery stores and most of them are affordable. If you are feeling like celebrating new years in Russian style, here are some ideas: 1) Russian Beyond 2) Traditional foods
  • Learn to pair drinks with the dishes, for example learn what is the perfect temperature for white wine, red wine or champagne . Avoid holiday lineups and stock up on liquor, champagne and wine in advance.

Holiday Decorations

  • Christmas tree continues being number 1. I noticed a strong trend to put the trees up in the first half of November this year. I can certainly understand it – with ongoing pandemic, having a holiday setup at home definitely improves the mood. I personally use a fake Christmas tree (it is already up since Thanksgiving is in the middle of October in Canada) but if you experience a shortage of Christmas trees in your area, it might be a good time to think about alternatives. As long as you have twinkling lights you can make almost any area of the house special. You can also decorate a different house plant with lights or use Christmas ornaments or toys to make a Christmas tree shape.
  • You can also make your own centrepieces – a combination of Christmas ornaments, glass vases, candles and holiday colours like red and green for more traditional or gold/silver for more modern look

Holiday Mood

  • I find that Christmas music and Christmas/new year’s movies are the best way to get me into a holiday mood. Surely you have your favourite list of music and movies so I will skip suggestions here
  • No winter holiday is complete without chocolate! There are so many ways to infuse chocolate in your life:
    • small candies and treats
    • hot chocolate set (marshmallows, chocolate sauce and whipped cream can also be added to enable you make a Starbucks-worthy DYI holiday drink)
    • chocolate sets
    • chocolate holiday advent calendars
  • Think about festive new clothing for holiday parties and you will have another reason to look forward to the events. I also like adding red lipstick or sparkles to my manicure to remind me to enjoy this time.
  • Think about donating to charity or doing acts of kindness or just complimenting a stranger (and keep doing it after the holiday is over)
  • I also feel more excited about new year if I have ideas for what I want the new year to bring. I do mood boards or vision boards where I put cuts from magazines and write things I would like to do/achieve/places I want to visit. I always get a new notebook to write my ideas, mention the list of things that happened and were achieved in the past year and what I am looking forward in new year and capture excitement so that I can revisit the pages when I am in gloomy mood. Also, think about one new thing you want to learn or try doing in a new year and sign yourself up for a course, follow a blogger or specialist that offers training or just watch free videos to learn.
  • Christmas scents – candles with Christmas tree or champagne scent, scented oils that smell like cookies – there are many ways to make the holidays closer
  • Make sure you add some beauty and anti-stress activities to your list – no one can be happy and jolly all the time – having days where you take things easy and just rest up will make it easier to survive the holidays.

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